Some (Blink!) first impressions as I open my eyes at 5:30 a.m. Monday. Then, I’ll elaborate.
I have eleven observations. Because, you know, this is football.
- The Raiders-Chargers classic was the craziest thing I had seen in the NFL in the past five hours.
- The Cowboys wound up with the toughest first-round opponent they possibly could have. This one is a problem. Trust me.
- The Colts’ meltdown was among the most stunning in league history, and Indy will have to move on from Carson Wentz. WTH was THAT? I feel very badly for Frank Reich.
- Attention, AFC seeds 2-7. You’re gonna have a very tough time in Nashville. If the Titans get King Henry back full strength and Julio Jones can turn back the clock for a month, that’s a wrap. Unless you’re the Chiefs.
- Chargers’ head coach Brandon Staley is a smart guy. So why is he so stubborn about doing stupid stuff? And why has he been that stubborn and stupid all season long? Last night was nothing new.
- It didn’t work out for him last night, but Justin Herbert is a generational talent. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anyone else like him.
- Big Ben is in. That’s cool. Enjoy the last week of your career, B.
- We have two intra-divisional matchups in the Super Wild Card Round. Both the Rams-Cards and the Bills-Pats will be decided by quarterback mistakes. Stafford and Murray are both a hot mess right now. All of a sudden, Mac looks more like cheese. Josh stands alone in that quartet.
- It’s Black Monday in the NFL. The Broncos didn’t even wait until Monday to whack Fangio. Messers Nagy, Zimmer and Judge will be turning in their office keys and commissary cards later this morning.
- The Texans would be crazy to fire David Culley. But the Texans are crazy. That’s why they’re in the shape they’re in.
- Derek Carr, for a lot of reasons, is the real “NFL Man of the Year.” I cannot begin to tell you how much I respect him as a human being and a leader.
Okay, I’ll expound on a couple of points.
- The NFL is The Dog. Everything else in American sports is The Tail. Deal with it.
- I’m already catching heavy social media flak for saying the 49ers are a nightmare matchup for the Cowboys. Deep breath, friends. I’m not saying the Cowboys can’t or won’t win the game. But I AM saying this is the toughest first-round draw Dallas could possibly get. The 49ers are by far the most physically nasty team in the NFL. The 49ers’ offensive system is unique. It is brutal and unmerciful, but it is not primitive. In fact, it is hyper-sophisticated, and they are hyper-committed to it. Look what happened yesterday. They got down 17-0 in a heartbeat and didn’t even blink. They just kept doing what they do.
And they broke the Rams’ will.
They run the hell out of the rock. They do it from multiple angles, and attack every hole. They create numerical advantages at the point of attack. They will cut-block you and frustrate you and piss you off. And they will keep doing it, no matter what.
They run the hell out of the rock. And they do it more precisely and creatively and with more discipline and commitment than any other team in the league.
They run the hell out of the rock. Dallas does not like playing teams that run the hell out of the rock. The Cowboys do not stop the run particularly well, and perhaps I’m being charitable.
Cowboy Nation is telling me that the Dallas pass rush will crush the 49ers. Exactly how is that gonna happen? The Niners will be looking at second and six all afternoon. When SF throws it, it will be off play action and three-step drops. Jimmy G ain’t gonna hold it long enough for the Dallas pass rush to get home, and that front seven is gonna have to play the run on their way to the quarterback.
On the other hand, the Niners’ pass rush will impact the game. Did you see the SF front seven EAT the Rams yesterday? The Cowboys’ passing game is somewhat similar to the Rams’. It is entirely possible that Dak will be under more consistent pressure than will Jimmy G.
And, oh, the Cowboys HAVE to run the ball to win. And the Niners have the #1 ranked rushing defense in the NFL.
Dallas knows all about Philly and Arizona. Those gameplans would have been easy to devise.
The Niners’ remain somewhat a mystery.
One more thing. Yes, there will be a lot of astounding NFL players on the field Sunday, on both teams.
But who is the single most dynamic offensive player on either team? If you say anyone other than Deebo Samuel, you are kidding yourself.
I’m not saying Dallas can’t or won’t win the game. But if you tell me this is a “gimme,” you are naïve and underinformed. This is gonna be a four-hour migraine.
Dang! There’s a college football national championship game tonight, isn’t there? More later.